Sunday, January 23, 2011

Council Meeting Minutes and the January 18, 2011 Budget Meeting

[Blog edited on 1/25/11--thanks to those who helped. I also added references to the statutory requirements in ORS 92.650]

First a few jokes (paraphrased) from Garrison Keillor and this last weekend's Prairie Home Companion:

Why do some men like to marry virgins?

Because they can't stand criticism.


Why do doctors hesitate to prescribe Viagra to lawyers?

Because it just makes them taller.


Why do so many women knit so much?

Because it gives them something to think about when they are talking.


Council Meeting Minutes and the January 18, 2011 Budget Meeting

I must admit that I have great respect for people who can bang out 50 to 100 words per minute at the keyboard because clerical speed with accuracy was, despite training as an Army clerk and radio man, never one of my strong suits. That should be clear to anyone who has run across an early edition of one of my blogs.

Thankfully, we don't really live in a world where the perfectly crafted sentence is always necessary. With the advent of the computer and associated video and audio technology, the type written record of events represented by written minutes should become a relic of the past. Actual events are often recorded in audio and/or video in digital format and can be stored on long-lasting CDs and DVDs, on personal and government computers, on hosting sites, and elsewhere. The actual events, as opposed to the abbreviated, sometimes subjective versions found in minutes, can be easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, DVD player, or library card. You can check out a tape at the County library, five dollars will buy you an audio or video of a City Council meeting down at City Hall, and the city is having talks with Granicus to provide streaming video and download capabilities for City Council Meetings as I write.

Back in October, prior to Mike Kee's Granicus initiative [The original Idea was proposed by Aletha Bonebrake when Steve Bogart was interim City Manager.], the City Council proclaimed Oregon Archives Month, and I sent them the following letter on the issue:

October 12, 2010

Dear Councilors,

It was good to read the Oregon Archives Month proclamation in today's Council Packet (First three paragraphs are included below), especially in light of earlier discussions of the wholly inadequate public record that is represented in the written minutes. The proclamation makes several important points, and three that speak to why the public record is important state:

1. "the records of the City of Baker City . . . are critical to our understanding of the past and in planning for our common future"
2. "it is a goal of these [archival] institutions to . . . [provide] a forum for ensuring accountability to our citizens"
3. "archival records document and provide context to our histories and evidence of our common and individual rights and obligations."

These goals cannot be achieved by archiving sketchy or incorrect minutes that leave out important events or misrepresent the reality of what actually occurs or what is said in discussions or during citizen participation.

As I noted previously, to have only the written minutes as the archived long-term public record is an invitation to corruption. I think this is true because when partially fictional, and in any event, inaccurate or incomplete accounts are allowed to serve as the official record of events, it suggests to public officials that they will not have to be accountable for many of their statements and actions, and to city administrators that they can rewrite history by omission and misrepresentation.

As you well know, and as was understood by a previous Council who instituted the practice of placing a video tape of Council meetings in our public library, a video tape or DVD of important meetings is a much more accurate record of what actually occurs at Council Meetings.

Part of the problem is the understanding that the law, as interpreted by the Oregon Association of Municipal Recorders City Recorder’s Procedure Manual Title II, Chapter 2.08.090, requires: “The Public Meetings law requires that written minutes be taken at all meetings. Minutes need not be a verbatim transcript and the meeting does not have to be tape recorded – although recording is highly recommended.”

(This interpretation was kindly provided by Becky Fitzpatrick.) This has been used by Council and previous City managers to downplay the need for a more accurate video record to be archived, because, after all, they already do more than the abysmally dysfunctional minimum requirements by making an audio recording and sending a video tape over to the library.

Unfortunately, tape media can wear out, break, or otherwise degrade, and the city is not required to keep tapes for more than a few years. As shown by this years document dump, the city is more than willing to get rid of records if they have been kept for the minimal amount of time that is legally required.

So. . . I would like to suggest that instead of just issuing another empty proclamation for Oregon Archives Month, that the Council use the occasion to also take at least one simple step every year to improve the retention, completeness, and availability of the public record in Baker City. Two simple steps that could be taken this year, would be to make a commitment to saving a video DVD of each public meeting with a requirement to copy it every ten to fifteen years. Another would be to provide a DVD to the library that they could make available to the public as people switch from VCRs to DVD players.

While some will object that changes in technology will make the DVDs obsolete, they can always be transferred to the new technology in that event, and who knows, maybe technology will also by then be able to create transcripts out of video archives.

Both of these improvements would be relatively inexpensive and would advance the goals of Oregon Archives Month.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.


Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street
Baker City, OR 97814

City of Baker City
Oregon Archives Month
October 2010

WHEREAS, the records of the City of Baker City, Baker County, the State of Oregon, and the nation are critical to our understanding of the past and in planning for our common future; and

WHEREAS, archival institutions have a responsibility to provide the public with access to their records, and it is a goal of these institutions to increase public awareness of the vital role they play in safeguarding knowledge of our intellectual, cultural, social, and governmental heritage and providing a forum for ensuring accountability to our citizens; and

WHEREAS, archival records document and provide context to our histories and evidence of our common and individual rights and obligations; and. . . .

Only Aletha Bonebrake, one of seven Councilors, responded directly to this letter.

Some may think that saying "to have only the written minutes as the archived long-term public record is an invitation to corruption" is a bit hyperbolic. Here are two examples of why I don't think it is.

1) In the last decade there was a case in a neighboring county where a mayor of the town presided over meetings where the city purchased his mother's property for sewage treatment. The tapes of the meetings showed that the mayor did not declare a conflict of interest. Without the tapes, it could not be proven that he had violated the law.

2) A few years ago, it was alleged that a local mayor had not declared a conflict of interest that he had during the budget meeting when it came up, as he was legally required to do. I asked for the minutes and the tape of the budget meeting. The minutes didn't clearly show what had happened. I was told by then recorder Jennifer Watkins that there was no audio or video tape of the meeting. No evidence--no case.

Some may also argue that having an actual record of the details of proceedings will keep good people from wanting to become public servants. I would argue that it will keep those interested in or susceptible to the behavior of feathering their own nest from serving. In any event, the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission has been crippled by weak statutes and inadequate funding, and does not have the power or inclination to become an abusive agency. Given their reticence to investigate claims of malfeasance, if a public official ever becomes involved in a full blown investigation by the Commission, there is no doubt in my mind that it is warranted.

There are lots of opinions from various groups as to what should be included in the minutes. There are also legal requirements in the Oregon Revised Statutes.

§ 192.650 Recording or written minutes required

Click on link immediately above to read statute. Here is the first section:

"(1) The governing body of a public body shall provide for the sound, video or digital recording or the taking of written minutes of all its meetings. Neither a full transcript nor a full recording of the meeting is required, except as otherwise provided by law, but the written minutes or recording must give a true reflection of the matters discussed at the meeting and the views of the participants. All minutes or recordings shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting, and shall include at least the following information:
(a) All members of the governing body present;
(b) All motions, proposals, resolutions, orders, ordinances and measures proposed and their disposition;
(c) The results of all votes and, except for public bodies consisting of more than 25 members unless requested by a member of that body, the vote of each member by name;
(d) The substance of any discussion on any matter; and
(e) Subject to ORS 192.410 to 192.505 relating to public records, a reference to any document discussed at the meeting.
" [Emphasis Added]

Along these lines, I recently compared an audio CD of the January 18, 2011, City Council Special Meeting on the next year's budget with the city's minutes provided from the meeting in the "Meeting Packet" for tomorrow's January 25, 2011 Council Meeting.

Here is some of what I found:

City Council Budget Meeting minutes, 1/18/11

While you might not realize it from reading the minutes of the January 18, 2011 budget meeting, much of the discussion centered on the general fund with some references to ever-present "huge" street maintenance backlogs and looming expensive public works projects. The likely reason for that is, according to the city's 2010-2011 adopted budget document, is that the general fund is where the vast majority of the tax money goes, and over 71% of it goes to "Personal Services," including wages and benefits for city employees.

Jeanie Dexter pointed me to the definition of personal services on page 26 of the Oregon Local Budget Manual

It is :
"Personal services includes salaries, benefits, workers compensation insurance, Social Security taxes and other costs associated with having employees."

Some may be accustomed to calling this personnel services.

Current and future demands for increased funding though, in addition to contracted personnel costs, are coming from the basic functions of city government, like streets, sewers and sewage treatment, and clean water. This has created increasing tension between the cost of basic services provided by aging or outdated infrastructure, and the always increasing demands on tax dollars for wages and benefits for employees.

Many people are beginning to wonder why wages and benefits for city employees are so much more generous than for other local public and private enterprises and beyond the wildest dreams of many others. Many taxpayers don't see basic fairness in a situation, where during a prolonged economic downturn and stagnation, municipal employee wages and benefits, along with property taxes, continue to increase somewhat dramatically, while their own prospects dwindle.

The problems associated with approving an unprecedented and generous five year contract to employees, while we were entering economic recession and uncertainty, was pointed out by some prior to a vote by a previous Council, under Mayor Jeff Petry, who approved the contract back in 2008. The contract was negotiated by former City Manager Steve Brocato, and it was he who proposed the five year contract. At that time, the Council consisted of Mayor Petry and Councilors Bryan, Schumacher, Duman, Calder, Dorrah and Bass, who voted unanimously to approve the police and fire deals.

Also, read the background in the Baker City Herald:
Security in the face of uncertain future
City's police, fire unions OK 5-year deals
City negotiates 5-year deal with public works union
Taxpayers Feeling "Stepped" On

All this is not to imply that the employees of Baker City do not work hard, I hope and think they do, as does the maid, truck and bus driver, field worker, hospital worker, septic tank cleaner, teacher, janitor, construction worker, State worker, Census worker, fence builder, and cashier, among others.

As pointed out by Councilor Button at the budget meeting, many pensioners have seen little or no increase in their incomes this year. The Social Security recipients in Baker City and elsewhere have had no cost of living increase for two years, even though many of their living costs, including property taxes, increase predictably. So the game I see being played out here, even if you wouldn't get it from the minutes, is that people are realizing that a just solution to a portion of our financial problems, is to bring city employee wage and benefit packages in line with the economic reality of other citizens and taxpayers, and then to find a way to use some or all of that money to pay for our basic infrastructure needs that are of fundamental importance.

I don't know why the minutes don't make the issues more clear, but I do know it doesn't have to be that way. As long as state law allows the minutes with minimal details to be the primary archived public record, an effort needs to be made to ensure that they actually do "document and provide context to our histories and evidence of our common and individual rights and obligations." In the meantime, the city needs to start a long-term (not just a year or two) parallel archive of DVD and CD audio and video records, with a determination and a commitment to save and restore each of them, as needed, for many years to come.

Below, my intent is to compare the minutes of the meeting in a couple of important sections with what was actually said. I will quote, or in most cases paraphrase, what was actually said, just below the quote from the minutes. This should give readers an idea as to how well the minutes reflect the reality of the conversations on those topics during the budget meeting. The sections are numbered according to the order of their occurrence at the meeting, i.e. 1, 2, 3, and etc. I don't have time to more or less transcribe the entire meeting, so the reader can do that for themselves if they like with the minutes and the audio files provided in the links below.

So that readers can verify for themselves what was actually said during the budget meeting, I have posted the files of the segments of the meeting in MP3 audio on the hosting site, and will provide links to those audio files below the discussion of that section of the meeting. You can download the files to your computer by clicking on the links, and then play them in a music player like iTunes.

The minutes are posted on Scribd.

Here are comparisons for two sections:

7. Priorities & Philosophies--Questions & Comments

Minutes state:

There was a brief discussion regarding the project sheets proposed by Mr. Kee.

That's it.

The discussion lasted for two and one half minutes with a back and forth between Councilor Roger Coles and City Manager Mike Kee, with a follow up by Beverly Calder. There is no mention in the minutes that Councilor Coles even spoke.

He wanted to know whether a project in a project sheet meant that it would actually be accomplished. He noted that they listed a lot of projects in the project fund last year and that "nothing's been done."

Mike Kee stated that "the year's not done, so, give us the rest of the year." He also explained further about the purpose of the project sheets. [Mike Kee has only been on the job for a few months, so the responsibility seems to rest on the shoulders of staff and previous interim manager.]

Councilor Coles then gave an example of the bathrooms in the park that are still not fixed and that "they should have been fixed."

Councilor Calder noted that the bathrooms had been inadequate since last July when they faced a crisis situation during Miners Jubilee. Also the windows in the Council chambers were part of the budget for the chamber's remodel, but that "it didn't get done." "So it isn't like it was overlooked, it's just that the money got spent on something else. And so that's been part of the problem . . . we pick a budget item and we have a list of things that need to be done, and only half of it gets done."

After three more short paragraphs on the subject of getting public input to the budget process and the creation of an comprehensive list of grants, our record for posterity, the minutes, stated that:

"The group discussed hiring policies. Ms. Dexter explained that this had been discussed, but until union contracts expire those policies could not be changed. Mr. Daugherty recommended reviewing the policy on insurance and the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)."

Hard to know specifically what the minutes are referring to. What about the hiring policy was discussed? The following is much of what actually transpired in the four minute discussion (see audio):

Daugherty: "Question for you Jeanie. Last year you seemed . . . fairly receptive about working on a new hire policy when it comes to benefits and things. Has staff made any progress or are they doing anything on that subject?" [Emphasis added]

Dexter: ". . . it's certainly come up in . . . conversation . . . even with some union folks . . . and they are kind of receptive to understanding that times are changing, but . . . other than the administrative people we have union contracts that are yet to expire. . . . Mike . . . is very interested in putting that on the table as soon as these contracts come up. . . ."

[Note: These contracts don't expire for over two years, on June 30, 2013. Former City Manager Brocato, as the county was entering the Great Recession, gave unionized employees a generous, unprecedented, 5 year contract, and the Council at that time approved it. Other cities have tried to force reopenings and adjustments, but our Council has only done so once--to alter the contract in the public works department as requested by the supervisor of Public Works. More on that questionable episode later, I hope. The Police Department offered to give up one year of their COLA last year, but the Council felt they couldn't accept the offer because they had not been able to reach a similar agreement with the Fire Department. ]

Daugherty: But still, uh, you know. . .

Calder: A policy is a policy.

Daugherty: Time's a wasting. Even if you hire a new clerk. . . . I just think it's something. . . . What do you got? Thirteen unrepresented or so. . . somewhere in that range. . . .

Kee: I have tried to research where that policy comes from and I can't find that policy.

Daugherty: The city doesn't have one?

Kee: Not that I have found.

Daugherty: "Then let's create one. Start paying your 6% PERS, raise the health insurance contributions." [Calder establishes they are in the third year of the Union contracts] You know, something's got to give there. We're a community that doesn't grow, we have no prosperity, and you can't keep balancing it on rate increases for all of our services. [Increases in water and sewer rates, etc.]

Dexter: "I'm not disagreeing with you at all." [ A few years back, Jeanie Dexter did politely listen to me in a conversation about the increasing divide between what city employees get in wages and benefits and what the general public in Baker City can afford to pay.]

Kee: That will be a better discussion to have when we get into the budget though.

Daugherty: "I think staff needs to start looking at, you know, it's been 8 months, needs to start looking at and putting it on a piece of paper. . ." [short discussion staff vacation time] "It seems to me like somebody in administration and passing piece of paper and say you know. . . how much are we going to start requiring employees to pay for health insurance. . . . OTEC's 20%, Forest Service is a third, . . ."

Mike Kee noted that admin staff does help pay and Dougherty stated that it is 10%.

Daugherty: "Can't afford it Mike." . . . I know they pay ten, but that's too low. . . . It's a start. But 15 would start building Jeanie's funds up a little more.

Next, the minutes refer to Councilor Button's comments:

Mr. Button indicated that he would like to see some options dealing with water, wastewater and streets with the funds the City has.

Here are some additional pieces of that discussion.

Button: Asked about the possibility, if I heard him correctly (you can check the audio file provided), of allowing, if there were a sunset provision in place, funds to be transferred from the general fund to help pay for water/wastewater issues, and streets.

He also said:

I'd like to see a game plan in place to actually address the backlogs on street repair and construction. . . ."

Mike Kee responded with "We need some help with that one Councilor Button."

Button: I know, It's huge! So. . . at least to have that discussion. What can we actually accomplish with the money we've got and how we are doing it. . . One thing to take into consideration would be an option in which we didn't do a 3% increase in the property tax . . . that's kind of been an automatic given that we've been raising it 3% a year. I know for a lot of people out there . . . they got zero increase on their pensions and stuff. . . so we [inaudible might look at that? ]

In a brief discussion regarding property taxes, Ms. Bonebrake explained that that tax rate could not be increased.

This discussion resulted in Bob Seymour expaining that the only way the city could decrease the property tax revenues coming to the city would be to levy less (3%) than the "full permanent rate." ( The city's permanent rate is listed as $6.3314 per $1,000 in the 2010-2011 budget document.). He also noted that some very pricy homes are being discounted or are in foreclosure, and that the assessor will have to reduce the value of these because they are going to sell for less than what they are presently assessed at. So you're going to lose some of the 3% there.

For the rest of the conversation, listen to the audio file.

3. Q&A Dorrah, Daugherty, Aletha, etc.


Seymour explained that since the City Finance Director now prepares the financial statements, the audit was completed later than it had been when his firm prepared the statements. He added that there was a financial savings to the City when Ms. Dexter prepares them in-house.

Minutes do not state the questions--here they are paraphrased:

Dorah: Question about why this point in the audit has moved from around November to now. (Why the audit process reports to Council and Budget committee are being delayed)

Answer by Bob Seymour, accountant from our auditing firm of Guyer and Associates;

It is a matter of timing. A couple of things have changed. Jeanie is now preparing the financial statements herself (as opposed to the auditors). . . . . I don't even have a copy of the file. . . . It's a matter of when Jeanie gets the financial statements done--I don't mean to blame it all on her. . . That's what it sounds like that's what I'm doing, but that's really true--because what we've done is schedule the audit later to start in to relation to when she will be prepared for it. Now, Mr. Brocato had her doing a lot of projects that in his planning . . . stuff. . . that he used to do. . . that he actually pushed it back because of the additional workload put on Jeanie. . . .

Dorah: And "Are we saving money by doing it that way'"and " Is there a disadvantage to" . . . having the audit . . . "two or three months later?"

Bob S.: Yes and no. Jeanie does a lot of this on her weekends. (See audio)

Jeanie Dexter: This year is actually earlier than last.

Daugherty: Question about significant liability for payout at termination without dollars set aside in reserve for that.

Ans. from Bob S.: There is a liability of $212,000 payable from general fund and street fund. As of June 30, 2010 the general fund had $1,187.000 and $499,000+ in the street fund and when asked, Mr Seymour said he is is comfortable with that.

Not everyone is going to retire at once. Everyone would have to quit at once for it to be a major problem.

Clarke: "How large would that have to get before you weren't comfortable Bob?"

Answer from Bob S.: If it gets substantially larger . . . then you'd have a policy problem. . . ." It is something that you owe them that you haven't paid them for yet." . . . .

Dexter: No accrual over 240 for represented but different for police & fire. . . . For police and general administration you can take it out of cash or just take mandatory vacation time, but we are or are not (--unintelligible) enforcing that.

Bob S.: Baker City used to take it out of a payroll service fund but just about the only city that had it like that. Most are on as Baker City has it now--on a pay as you go basis.

Daugherty: "it [the way they are doing it now?] shores up the bottom line" (as opposed to having it in reserve in a separate fund like a payroll service fund line item) so it shores up the ending fund balance. (I think he is saying it gives a false impression of what the real ending fund balance is.)

Aletha: Why shouldn't it be funded in a (separate line item) holding fund?

Seymour: If you think about it you are paying a person for 52 weeks a year and you give him two weeks vacation, what you're doing is you are giving him a full year's salary but you are only expecting him to work 50 weeks, so you are expecting him to take two weeks off, so when you budget his salary for 52 weeks, you are actually funding that vacation time in your budget.

Aletha: The problem is that it becomes tax carryover because. . . we still have a liability. Should go into a saving fund for the actual liability, otherwise people could misunderstand the actual ending fund balance as being money that could be used for general operations. Seems a lot safer to me.

Bob S.: Yes, you could do that and that is extremely conservative.

Aletha: Because it is so close to the wire that without it, it would be very dangerous, and I don't know whether it would be dangerous for a municipality of this kind or not, but it seems that money that is actually committed. . . should be sitting there [in a separate fund].

Bob S.: Doesn't the labor district also have something on termination besides (unintelligible) . . . .

Aletha: No, its really the big picture--the liability. . . . . It started about four years ago [Brocato--Chris]. and really, it just seems to me that it is a false number, to see a cash carryover that includes a liability [so it is a disingenuous cash carryover], because then you make decisions as to what you can fund, put more money into streets, and more money here and there, . . . it seems a very good idea to have it identified.

Bob S. . . . . The question I come back with is … there's no effect on the budget . Really, if you are going to reasonably fund this, you should look at what the expected turnover rate is, and then set aside the amount of money you expect to pay out. . . [several known terminations--and which we do] for the next year, and then set aside for the expected terminations. . . . We're getting into my personal opinion here. . . . But I guess the question is do the citizens of this city like to see their money sitting around in a savings account because it belongs to someone for vacation time that they are not taking that will be funded by just paying them the same salary without them working as much, or would they rather see you provide those services that are needed? . . . . See audio file--more explanation needed.

Aletha: I really understand what you are saying, I'm not going to belabor this, . . . sometimes an entity ends up with employees who stay the whole 30 years and have like six weeks vacation, take four, . . . and you end up with a 15 to $20,000 liability. . . . it could be dangerous in a small entity. . . . It could be dangerous in a small entity.

Jeanie D.: Usually when you have an unexpected termination, you usually have a vacancy for a period of time . . . and that's where you have the savings where you compensate for for the payout. And a lot of times, in those places where you have normal turnover they don't build up real big reserves in their vacation time, usually you end up with a net savings in a vacancy that's been there versus on the payout at termination.

Aletha; And I'm sure you watch it carefully enough that if you saw it building up like a tidal wave you'd see it right away. . . .

Jeanie: Last year there were three planned retirements in the water/utility fund and one in the police department--we just budget those.. . . and in one case the employee used most of their vacation time so they didn't have costs at termination.

For rest of audio files on the budget meeting, see links below. Again my point,and question, is, do the minutes accurately reflect the discussion so as to "document and provide context to our histories and evidence of our common and individual rights and obligations?"

1. Intro by Mayor Dorrah

2. Bob Seymour Overview of Budget Process, Purpose & etc.

4. Jeanie Dexter on Budget Calendar and etc.

5. CM Mike Kee on additional revenue sources; Daugherty comment, etc.

6. Priorities & Philosophies Introduction

Mike Kee's comments. See Audio file.

Mr. Kee spoke about introducing "project sheets" to help Council with spending priorities, etc.

He also stated they he and staff want to help you (Council) achieve what you want to achieve, we're not here to fight, we will push back--you want that, I think, don't you?--you don't just want a staff that doesn't bring things to your attention. So we will occasionally push back but staff's main job is to help you accomplish what you want to and bring the committee to gather to somewhat of a common aim.

8. Preparation for 2011·2012 Budget Meetings


Oregon Local Budget Manual (109 pages)

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Day To Remember Martin Luther King Jr.

It was preordained that the mass media, including National Public Radio, would focus on a few of the dreams that MLK had wished for, while ignoring a major and most important portion of his dream--the end to militarism and empire--not to mention the fact that since his assassination, even though we have a black man serving as our president, the classism that afflicts all races, is still rampant within our society.

Today, given our current endless "war on terror," it is enough to focus on his wish to end militarism and empire-I have not heard such truth from anyone since receiving his words in the following speech:

From Information Clearinghouse
A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King

By 1967, King had become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi," and the Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Part 1

Part 2

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Public Lands Grazing Updates; Wolves; Krugman on Moral Divide

In This Edition;

- Public Lands Grazing Updates

----- Another Step Forward for Threatened Steelhead on the Malheur National Forest
----- Hell's Canyon Preservation Council Files Suit Asking Forest Service to Comply With the Law
----- ODFW Wolf Report
----- Krugman--A Tale of Two Moralities

[Edited 1/14-15 & 17/11]

More time was taken with this post on livestock gazing, compared with others (:-)), simply because this is a subject that has been close to my heart and action for a long while, as is explained to some degree below.

Understanding the effects of livestock grazing is not really fully realized by reading a book--one has to go out over a period of time and look around, experience and get to know grazed and un-grazed environments--sit still, walk slowly, study, and soak up what is happening to living things in both situations. Looking at sometimes subtle (and often not so subtle) differences, such as in plant and animal diversity, the number of breeding birds or fish spawning locations (redds) found, stream morphology measurements such as width and depth, stream bank characteristics (overhanging or bare and laid back), the kinds, quantity and condition of riparian plants present, and much more, helps people understand the effects of livestock grazing on riparian/stream systems. The literature is rich with observations and conclusions, some of which have come from the scientists within the land management agencies (Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and etc.) themselves.

The effects of livestock grazing are well know to many in addition to university professors, including in particular, the scientists in the federal and state agencies that manage our public lands. Conscientious and courageous agency biologists like Bill Platts, a now retired fisheries biologist in the Forest service pointed out some of the adverse effects many years ago. Most of the agencies own scientists today are well aware of these effects and more, but others in powerful and not so powerful positions, while under enormous political pressure to promote the grazing status quo, may bend to that pressure. Others, including even some with scientific training, eagerly enable bad grazing practices to continue, going so far as to ignore or defend them. Enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars are siphoned off and wasted so as to needlessly defend against lawsuits that properly target indefensible and destructive grazing practices, when taxpayer money should be aimed at monitoring the grazing activity and managing conditions on the ground--the public's ground. (I won't even be touching on the fact that public lands ranchers receive what amounts to a very large subsidy from US taxpayers--beginning with the woefully inadequate $1.35 monthly grazing fee for each cow and calf--so that ranchers can continue to have their way with the public lands.)

Here is one guarded example of many agency statements about the effects of livestock on riparian/stream systems:

Livestock Grazing in Riparian Areas in the Interior Columbia Basin and Portions of the Klamath and Great Basin; September 11, 1995

Within the western U.S., livestock grazing likely will continue as a primary use of much of the land area of the Columbia Basin (Kindschy 1994). Cattle are the principal type of livestock that now graze rangelands of the Columbia Basin. Riparian areas constitute only a small percentage of these rangelands (Bedell ed. 1993), yet livestock (especially cattle) activity is disproportionately concentrated within riparian areas (Marlow and Pogacnik 1986, Kovalchik and Elmore 1991) compared with upland areas of watersheds. Excessive herbage removal and physical damage by trampling are visual effects of improper grazing in riparian areas resulting from this concentration of activity. Less noticeable are effects on water quality.

Ramifications of excessive herbage removal and physical damage can include reduced dissipation of stream energy, increased bare soil and soil loss through accelerated erosion, stream channel degradation resulting in reduced floodplain recharge and/or lowered water table and subsequently reduced riparian community size. Erosion and stream channel degradation also affect water quality by increasing suspended sediments and, in conjunction with absence of vegetation shading, water temperature. Simplification of structural layering of vegetation, and presence of early successional stages result in less diverse and often less productive floral and faunal assemblages. Direct influences of livestock concentrations in riparian areas on water quality also include bacterial and protozoal parasite contamination and nutrient enrichment from fecal material in and near surface waters (Larsen in press).

To put that more simply, in lay people's terms: Poorly managed livestock grazing can easily trash riparian/stream systems (not to mention the uplands) on public lands, which are a natural heritage belonging to all the people of our sometimes United States.

For other environmental sources see:

Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West and Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West by George Wuerthner & Mollie Matteson.

Sacred cows at the public trough and Amazon

Effects of livestock grazing and trampling on aquatic and riparian habitats in the western United States

Another Step forward for Threatened Steelhead on the Malheur National Forest

On December 29, 2010, threatened native steelhead in the John Day River basin of Grant County received a New Year's gift from U.S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty and the steelhead's friends in the Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds, and Advocates for the West.

Examples of grazing's effects on riparian/stream systems used by endangered fish like steelhead or bull trout.

Summit Creek Exclosure--
Summit Creek on the Sagehen unit, Prairie City Ranger District. Photo shows example of healthy riparian and good fish habitat inside the exclosure. Note deep and narrow stream channel with ample bank stabilizing vegetation. The exclosure excludes cattle but not other native herbivores. I have personally witnessed elk jumping over the west fence into the exclosure to feed. The graminoids along the greenline were about 12 to 14 inches when this photo was taken on 10/08/06.

Summit Creek, just a hundred feet or so outside exclosure. Contrast this photo of this grazed portion of the creek with the previous photo showing conditions just upstream where cattle are excluded. ONDA folks listening to Tim Burton at Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) field trip are Ken Stolz (rt.), Jefferson Jacobs (crouched, 2nd from end) and Mike Ogle (this side of Jefferson).

Note wide, shallower, unshaded stream, little bank stabilizing vegetation, and accelerated erosion from cattle shearing the overhanging bank on the right in photo above. Ex-Forest Service employee, now "consultant," Tim Burton (in the creek), who was conducting the seminar, had little to say about the cattle damage to the overhanging bank on the right. Of course it is hard to know exactly what the instructors said, as they told me to turn my video camera off before their educational program even got started. I was happy to help them find or identify some of the plants along this creek, as I have become quite familiar with this area over the years.
Malheur NF, Grant Co. OR, July 15, 2009

Tim Burton-Erv Cowley Shut Down Filming of their Malheur National Forest MIM Field Trip
Tim Burton, career retired government employee and fisheries biologist for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Erv Cowley, retired career employee at the BLM, shut down filming of the field trip where they try explain their idea of Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) to Malheur National Forest Service employees, ranchers, and other interested parties who are responsible for protecting streams from cattle grazing.

I guess they didn't want their methodologies under scrutiny, as Tim Burton was at the time helping the Forest Service defend themselves against a law suit by environmental groups who were trying to improve grazing management on the Malheur National Forest. Both Mr. Burton, and Mr. Cowley took their many years experience in the land management agencies, the kind of careers during which some employees get in bed with the ranchers, or at a minimum become totally inured to the damaging effects of livestock grazing, to propel themselves into their new job as monitoring "consultants."

While MIM monitoring is certainly a big step forward from what has been near total neglect, because the agencies will be unable to afford its implementation, it really just ends up providing a very thin veneer of professionalism and science over a failed grazing program.

Mr. Burton is leaning against the tailgate of the pick-up and Mr. Cowley is the one who came over to tell me to stop filming. Another individual in black cap and blue denim jeans, probably from the Forest service, came over to say something to them just before Cowley delivered his message to me. Here's your video Tim and Irv. You can watch it anytime you want on YouTube!

The victory for steelhead.

Here is the press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:

For Immediate Release, December 30, 2010


Brent Fenty, ONDA, (541) 330-2638
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 788-2290

Grazing Halted to Protect Steelhead Trout on a
Quarter-million Acres of Malheur National Forest

PORTLAND, Ore.— A federal judge today barred livestock grazing harmful to endangered steelhead trout on more than a quarter-million acres of public land on the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon. District Judge Ancer Haggerty ordered the U.S. Forest Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider the effects of the federal agencies’ grazing plan on native steelhead streams before grazing can resume.

According to Judge Haggerty, grazing has harmed steelhead by damaging the streams they depend on. The court’s order prohibits the Forest Service from allowing grazing on a vast area, including nearly 200 miles of critical steelhead habitat, until the agency complies with the Endangered Species Act. Along another 100 miles of steelhead streams, the court ordered the Forest Service to continue to carry out protective measures it approved during the last two years. The judge also ordered the Forest Service to comply with its steelhead habitat monitoring obligations under the National Forest Management Act and the Malheur Forest Plan before resuming grazing.

Today’s court order is the result of long-running challenges to Forest Service grazing by the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project that began in 2003. It follows Judge Haggerty’s June 2010 ruling that the Forest Service’s grazing plan violated the Endangered Species Act and National Forest Management Act along more than 300 miles of steelhead streams in the John Day River Basin.

“Today’s decision puts the responsibility for protecting steelhead squarely on the agencies,” said Brent Fenty, ONDA’s executive director. “The court makes clear that the agencies have to make steelhead protection their highest priority, and that they cannot let riparian grazing continue until the agencies create a plan that complies with the law.”

In his ruling earlier this year, Judge Haggerty noted evidence that streamside grazing failed to meet ecological standards designed to conserve steelhead. The standards, established by the Forest Service and Fisheries Service, are meant to protect the key elements of healthy fish streams: stable stream banks and overhanging vegetation that keep streams clear and cold. The Forest Service’s grazing program has damaged stream banks much more severely than is allowed under federal standards.

“This decision insures that the Forest Service must give up its business-as-usual grazing management,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “There will be no grazing on hundreds of miles of important fish streams until the Forest Service and NMFS can guarantee that grazing will not harm steelhead.”

Judge Haggerty’s order is the latest in a series of decisions that have resulted in significant protections for threatened steelhead. The judge issued a preliminary ruling in 2008 barring grazing on two allotments, which protected more than 90 miles of steelhead streams. In 2009, the court imposed strong conditions to restrict grazing and limit damage to streams. In the places where the court’s orders have prevented grazing during the past two years, even a single year of rest has allowed for significant initial recovery of riparian plant communities, stream channels and fish habitat.

“Suspending grazing on more than 200 miles of stream on the Malheur National Forest will not just benefit endangered steelhead, but numerous other wildlife species dependent on healthy rivers for their survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It will also benefit the public by improving water quality and recreational opportunities, such as fishing, bird-watching and boating. Numerous studies have conclusively demonstrated that there is no compatible use of riparian areas by livestock.”

The Malheur National Forest is located in eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. It includes portions of the Upper John Day, Middle Fork John Day, North Fork John Day and Malheur rivers. The 281-mile long John Day River is the second longest undammed river in the continental United States. The river and its hundreds of miles of tributary streams on the Malheur National Forest provide spawning, rearing and migratory habitat for the largest naturally spawning, native stock of wild steelhead remaining in the Columbia River basin.

The opinion can be found at:

Rumor has it that the defendants may have filed for a "Reconsideration" of Judge Haggerty"s opinion in this case.
Beaver Dam Creek in 2007--Grazed condition
Murderer's Creek Allotment, Dan's Creek unit, Beaver Dam Creek and wet meadow. Photo shows low stubble and massive bank alteration. Cows had been on the unit for a while. Photo was taken on September 28, 2007.

Beaver Dam Creek in 2008--Essentially ungrazed condition
Murderer's Creek Allotment, Dan's Creek unit, Beaver Dam Creek and wet meadow. Photo shows high grass and sedge with little in the way of bank alteration. Cows were allegedly not here this year--just wild ungulates and feral horses. Photo was taken in September, 2008.

This case began in 2007, and was filed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), and their lawyers, Peter M. (Mac) Lacy (ONDA), Stephanie Parent (Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, now also in private practice), and Kristin Ruether (Advocates for the West). It was subsequently led by David Becker ( who really brought success through his arduous effort which was well beyond the call of duty.

The progress in this case is documented at ONDA v. Kimbell et al., 07-1871-KI (Malheur National Forest grazing decisions).

Earlier attempts to improve grazing practices on the Malheur National Forest began under the direction of one of ONDA's founders and leading lights, Bill Marlett (along with Don Tryon and Alice Elshoff & others), when ONDA filed their first grazing lawsuit on the Malheur N.F. in the John Day/Camp Creek case back in 1994. Denzel and Nancy Ferguson were also early supporters, see: Sacred cows at the public trough and Amazon.

My own involvement in documenting livestock grazing damage on the Malheur began with feeble photographic attempts in 1999, when I first moved to Oregon. I had grown up in an area where the portions of the national forests I visited were not impacted by public lands livestock grazing. The streams that my father took me to for fishing and hiking were as natural as could be expected, with plenty of stream-shading shrubs to deal with, overhanging banks, and numerous pools where I could find some nice fish for dinner. Beginning in the early 1980's, during my jaunts to Utah, I began to notice that the streams, lakesides, and springs were being trashed by livestock grazing, with some areas taking on characteristics that resembled a stockyard. It was obvious that "Ecosystem management" had not yet become popular buzzwords within the land management agencies. In the mid-1980s western ecosystems and native plants became an interest, so I completed a field botany course in 1989, and began identifying and photographing native plants. Since the late 1980s I have observed and been deeply concerned about the destruction, including in some cases the permanent impairment and alteration, of western public ecosystems by livestock grazing.

I was, at least I like to think, a thorn in the side of the Forest Service and BLM, concerning their grazing practices, from the late 1980's on. The victories were almost non-existant, given that I had no lawyer and the BLM (Originally called the "Grazing Service" and "General Land Office"), as well as the Forest Service at that time, were actually at the beck and call of local ranching communities. In the rural ranching areas, both agencies did for all intents and purposes, function as a grazing service, protecting some ranchers' privileges to expropriate public land for use as an over-stocked private cow pasture. I used to go into the BLM district office in Fillmore, Utah, and find that the assistant district manager had articles from Range magazine on her office wall. The district manager was responsible for one allotment that was named for a relative, who bore his own last name. Similar agency kowtowing (or is that cowtowing?) and deplorable conditions were observed in California, Nevada and Arizona. Portions of the public lands in many areas of the rural west had clearly taken on the character of a stockyard.

Stockyard? Bluebucket Allotment/Lake Camp Unit, Malheur National Forest. UTM 11T 0376580E 4883943N Black Canyon at end of trail from 460 road leading to spring & exclosure.
Photo shows bare ground and erosion created by cattle trails and heavy use in the canyon around the exclosure. Sediments from sources like these will easily find their way downstream to seasonally used, threatened bull trout habitat, on the main stem of the Malheur River. Photo was taken on October 8, 2006.

Given my experiences, it was natural therefore to notice similar conditions on the Malheur National Forest when I moved to Prairie City, Oregon in 1999. My interest in monitoring public land grazing activities was well developed prior to my moving to Grant County in 1999, and so I immediately involved myself in continuing that activity. I attended agency-organized field tours, when allowed (they didn't always allow me to attend their "tours."), and reported incidents of cattle trespassing, violation of grazing standards, and areas of chronic damage caused by cattle grazing to the Forest Service. I also donated fencing material to the Prairie City district of the Malheur National Forest to help protect declining aspen stands from cattle grazing.

In 2000-2001, I teamed up with the Oregon Natural Desert Association, who had taken an interest in grazing activities on the Malheur not long after their founding in 1987. Jon Rhodes, Hydrologist at Planeto Azul Hydrology had already been on the case for some years, and soon, Dr. Bob Beschta, Professor Emeritus at Oregon State Universuity, who Jon has described as "perhaps the world's greatest living wildland hydrologist," along with renowned riparian ecologist, Dr. Boone Kauffman, and Grant County residents whose identity I should probably protect (unless given permission), were on the case. With that expertise, ONDA's lawyers, and my monitoring, we began an association aimed at getting the Malheur National Forest and their public land grazing permittees to begin following the law and to show the land a little respect in the John Day and Malheur River basins.

The first of a series of ONDA lawsuits that I was a party to began in 2003, with the most recent being the one that Judge Haggerty just rendered a decision in (2007). ONDA's legal efforts, along with court action, are beginning to improve livestock grazing management in both of these river systems. ONDA's actions, with the tremendous help of The Center For Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds, and Advocates For The West, have begun to see results, despite the enormous financial power arrayed against them, in protecting riparian corridors along the rivers and streams of these systems. As these riparian corridors begin to heal, the critters that inhabit them, including steelhead and breeding birds, among others, should begin to flourish and increase their numbers to a healthy sustainable level.

Much remains to be done by younger volunteers, both on the Malheur National Forest, and elsewhere. To help, please contact Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds, and Advocates for the West.

Grazed Condition in 2007
Murderer's Creek Allotment/John Young Meadows Unit; S. Fk. Murderers Creek as it flows through John Young Meadows. Photo shows more massive trampling and mowed-down graminoids as poor conditions continue upstream from transectt south end of transect toward the horse pasture/exclosure and cow camp. Photo was taken on October 22, 2007.

Un-grazed Condition in 2008
Murderer's Creek Allotment/John Young Meadows Unit; S. Fk. Murderers Creek as it flows through John Young Meadows. Photo shows the effects of no cattle grazing, although feral horses and elk used the area. Bank alteration on transect measured was essentially non existant. Grazing permittee and ODFW employee are watching and photographing me from the road in upper right. Photo was taken in late October, 2008.

Hell's Canyon Preservation Council Files Suit Asking Forest Service to Comply With the Law
USFS Feedlot-Juniper Flat, Juniper Flat pasture, Alder Springs allotment on the Whitman Ranger District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Baker County, OR, (this allotment was among those categorically excluded from thorough environmental review and challenged in the lawsuit described in press release below). Photo by Christopher Christie, October 9, 2008

Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Thousands of Acres of Public Lands and Waters from Forest Service's Inadequate Environmental Review of Livestock Grazing

The Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Oregon Natural Desert Association filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging several Forest Service livestock grazing permit renewals on three National Forests in eastern Oregon. The Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur National Forests have together reauthorized livestock grazing on well over a quarter million acres of our public lands without thoroughly assessing or disclosing to the public the impacts of these actions on the region's natural resources.

Instead, the Forest Service has elected to forego any thorough environmental assessments or meaningful public participation, issuing numerous "categorical exclusions" across eastern Oregon and throughout the entire American West. An appropriations “rider” passed by Congress in 2005 and extended in 2008, allowed the Forest Service to categorically exclude grazing reauthorizations in fiscal years 2005 through 2008 from documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), if the agency was able to demonstrate with monitoring data that current grazing management is meeting resource standards (standards designed to ensure ecosystem health, protect native species, and prevent overgrazing). Categorical exclusions are also disallowed if grazing might negatively affect certain special resources like threatened and endangered species; flood plains, wetlands, or municipal watersheds; congressionally designated areas, such as wilderness or national recreation areas; and cultural or archeological sites.

The Forest Service has repeatedly misapplied this grazing rider across these three forests. Although grazing has occurred on these public lands allotments for decades, in most cases the Forest Service has never prepared any environmental analyses under NEPA, despite the presence of imperiled plants, threatened salmon and steelhead, degraded streams, sensitive and unique habitats, cultural and archeological sites, and areas designated by Congress for special resource protection, such as the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Imnaha and John Day Wild & Scenic Rivers. Because the agency has failed to adequately monitor these areas and the resources they contain, it cannot show that protective standards are being met and that grazing does not pose any serious threats.

When inappropriately managed, livestock grazing adversely impacts ecological communities, particularly sensitive streamside areas, meadows, sagebrush ecosystems, aspen stands, and native grasses and forbs, all of which are critically important habitat for fish and wildlife. Livestock can trample and eat vegetation, spread noxious weeds, compact soils, erode streambanks and impair water quality. When livestock are allowed to degrade this habitat, it threatens the ecological functioning or survival of many fish, wildlife and plant species.

This action aims to ensure the Forest Service takes a hard look at the impacts of grazing on thousands of acres of public lands and waters, imperiled species, and countless other natural resources of eastern Oregon and gives the public a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decisions affecting our natural heritage.


ODFW Wolf Report from Michelle Dennehy

Imnaha Pack:
- at least 16 wolves

Imnaha Wolf Pack, December 30, 2010


Krugman--A Tale of Two Moralities

(A friend sent me this.)

A Tale of Two Moralities
Published: January 13, 2011

On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to “expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.

But the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time.
. . . .
What are the differences I’m talking about?

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft.

That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose. . . . .

It’s not enough to appeal to the better angels of our nature. We need to have leaders of both parties — or Mr. Obama alone if necessary — declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds. We all want reconciliation, but the road to that goal begins with an agreement that our differences will be settled by the rule of law.

My Edited Response:

The so-called "conservatives" (certainly not my conservative side) think their breaks in life make them superior, and entitle them to be actually haughty and vicious--to rationalize that the needy are simply "bad" people. It appears that they have no understanding of a simple truth: "There but for fortune go you and I."

As far as empathy, violence, the rule of law, and reconciliation goes, perhaps the first step is for America (and Obama) to set an example, by ending the state terrorism we afflict on others in illegal, useless, wasteful, counter-productive and destructive wars, and, most importantly, the infliction of tragic violence and murder on innocent people around the globe. All talk about violence being inappropriate seems a little hypocritical and inconsistent in the face of our own country's very violent ways.

[See next post:
A Day To Remember Martin Luther King Jr